Caples Lake to Emigrant Lake Trail

MODERATE 92 reviews
#1 of 10 trails in

Caples Lake to Emigrant Lake Trail is a 8.2 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Markleeville, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

8.2 miles
921 feet
Out & Back

dog friendly




nature trips







wild flowers




Directions from Sacramento: Travel east of Highway 50, turn south onto Scenic Byway 49, turn east onto Highway 88. Then turn north off Highway 88 at the Cal Trans Maintenance Station near Caples Lake. Continue for two miles to Schneiders Cow Camp where parking is available. Follow the 4-wheel drive road for 1/2 mile to the trailhead.

5 days ago

Pretty crowded, but that is most places this time of year.
Easy hike. Gorgeous flowers everywhere!
3 stream crossings that can be crossed by rocks and avoiding wet feet.
Mosquitos will eat you alive, even with bug spray, but they thin out depending on the hour.
Parking is limited and fills up. Vault toilets at the parking lot, no water.

7 days ago

Loved this hike. Waterfalls, streams, big beautiful rocks and 2 amazing lakes. Gets a bit steep. Bring bug spray there are so many mosquitos. I’ll do this hike again!

12 days ago

great trail good hike pretty country

17 days ago

This hike is spectacular, however we took a wrong path and ended up hiking 12 miles when we finally made it back to the car. The trail is pretty easy in most places, but there are some pretty steep inclines. My 75 year old friend made it all the way. I would definitely do this hike again.

19 days ago

Great trail. Loved the wild flowers!

1 month ago

Loved it! Great hike! The first mile is along Caples Lake and is easy. The only thing in this area that I didn’t like were the dogs off leash. The creek crossings were fine, easy and cooled my feet. The last one half mile was pretty snow covered and it was easy to lose the trail. Very beautiful at the lake, lots of areas to hike. Quiet, very quiet, only the breeze was heard.

1 month ago

Hiked this yesterday. While the trek along Caples was pretty, it was nice to finally move away from the highway noise. A bit wet and had numerous creek crossings, but nothing too difficult (water resistant boots help). Although the upper part of the trail was snowed in, it was doable. Just follow the larger creek on your right up to Emigrant (even easier if you have the map on this app downloaded).Definitely worth the effort, as Emigrant Lake is still mostly snow bound and utterly breathtaking!

1 month ago

Beautiful hike and not too strenuous. Lots of streams and waterfalls and even a few wildflowers (too early in the season for very many). Unfortunately, had to turn back 4.2 miles in as the trail was lost in the snow and was to treacherous to continue without snow shoes. May be passable in another month or so.

One of my favorite hikes I have ever done. best time to go is in the late spring/summer.

5 months ago

I think the instructions for accessing the trail may be wrong. The map shows you should start about a mile past the CalTrans station, in a parking lot that is inaccessible in winter. Looked beautiful though!

7 months ago

I loved this trail, I definitely plan on going again. The scenery is beautiful! Worth every burning step.

8 months ago

Beautiful any time of the year. Can't wait to come back in the spring.

9 months ago

Fairly easy hike if you are in good shape. My friend and I decided to hike up to Melissa Coray Peak after setting up camp around the eastern side (towards Round Top) which was fairly tough and very rocky, no real trail except for a few rock stackings that hikers have placed. Going around the western ridge is much easier and advised as its less rocky and there are trails leading most of the way to the top. The lake itself was nice and clear but cold, it did get fairly windy during the night but nothing too bad. However, the morning was extremely calm with a few birds chirping around the lake. The streams leading towards Caples from Emigrant were not as active and many of the plants and flowers were dead (late in the year). Looking to going back during the peak summer months for warmer temperatures to dip into the freezing water and to look at the beautiful wildflowers.

9 months ago

Love it, not strenuous. Actual mileage 9.1 miles. Emigrant lake beautiful

9 months ago

The trail itself starting from Caples lake is mostly fairly generic forest trail. If Caples lake is still, you can see pretty nifty reflections. Should get a little closer to the lake to see some pretty sights. After the lake ends, it's a fairly steep hike for about a mile and a half. Maybe because I went in September, I didn't see any "waterfalls" as others mentioned. There were some unremarkable streams along the way. Emigrant lake is really beautiful. But again it would be much prettier in early summer with more snow on the mountains in the back. Moral: visit earlier in summer not in September.

10 months ago

This was by far one of the most beautiful hikes I have done. Followed the lake for a while and then saw beautiful streams and waterfalls on the way to emigrant lake. We hiked with a 5, 12 & 13 year old. The younger ones did great but we carried all their hiking gear. The hike up did seem a little relentless with a 45lb+ backpack on but it was well worth once we where there. We'd hike here again in a heartbeat with our older son but probably would opt out with the 5-year old. We went the beginning of Sep and it got down to around 30° (-) with the wind however we have all the right gear so it wasn't a huge deal just something to take into consideration with the smaller ones. If your wondering whether to do this with small kids I'd start with a smaller hike first.

10 months ago

Fantastic hike, half dozen or more spots to get water along the hike (if you have a filter of course).

If you get a chance and are ready for a couple miles of steep granite hiking, the view from Melissa coray peak is phenomenal. Great views of Round top, 4th of July (peak and lake), the sisters, covered wagon peak, aaaand saddleback too!

I tried heading west to the old emigrant trail which supposedly meets back up with the caples lake trail; don't bother, old emigrant trail is entirely unmaintained once you get towards the kirkwood ski lift. Phenomenal purple lupine views, but several miles of trekking thru thick undergrowth will follow.

10 months ago

Great trail for dogs, easy on their feet. We did not run into too many people. Beautiful views along the way. Well worth the 8 miles to Emigrant Lake. Much easier hike back.

10 months ago

Beautiful trail!

10 months ago

It was a moderately populated trail due to the holiday weekend but still serene and beautiful nonetheless. We ended up just doing an overnight backpacking trip. Once the day hikers cleared out it we had a little more solitude. Hidden waterfalls, rock climbing boulders, and some snow were our highlights!

10 months ago

Absolutely the best trail my wife and I have been so far, I was packing for photography 2 DSLRs and 4 lenses, a bit on the heavy side for a 7.4 mile out and back, which ended up being a 9.1 mile out and back after a couple of side views of waterfalls and wild flowers, lots of photo opportunities, we even say our first Golden Eagle, easy hiking until the last 1.5 miles which then ascends 800 feet to Emigrant Lake, but the view of this lake was incredible well worth the hike, if you go on this trail for photography best to alow at least 8 hours for round trip, we spent 8hrs 40 min total for the trip

10 months ago

Great hike, did this August 20th. Pretty easy going, not too difficult of a trail.

11 months ago

Nice hike to a very cool little lake.

11 months ago

Great Hike. Most of the hike is near water.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Embarked on this yesterday and it was beautiful. There are still lots of downed trees across the trail and ice patches that make keeping on track challenging. Got lost a few times. Had to cross the river twice - there are clear signs where this is necessary. The first was difficult. The second was beyond my comfort level so I didn't make it all the way to the lake. Willingness to get feet wet and hiking poles is helpful as much of the trail is a stream! The wild flowers were bright and others said there will be even more in a week or two.

Park at the Caples Lake spillway along Hwy 88. The trail head is well marked and there are bathrooms. No fee to park but arrive early as it fills up.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

I must be the only dork to follow the directions to the trailhead on this page. I always use a topo map on my hikes but this time I didn't. I just took for granted the directions and reviews listed for this hike. I definitely didn't have any problems getting to Schneiders Cow Camp but I couldn't figure out why we were on the other side of Hwy 88 and Caples Lake. But, I was determine to follow these directions. We kept wondering, "Why aren't we following Caples? When are we going to cross the hwy?" Well, after about 2 hrs of a beautiful hike on snowmobile/quad trails to the town of Strawberry, we turned around. But, the actual trailhead Caples to Emigrant Lake is right off of Hwy 88. West side of Caples Lake, almost across the trailhead for Lake Margaret. We will try this hike another day soon. With a map! :)

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

We followed the trail along Chaples lake with ease. But when we tried to head uphill to immigrant lake, we could not find the trail. We tried for over 2 hours. Too many fallen trees, debris, streams from snow
melt, and mounds of snow covering the trail. Tried to follow the old slash marks in the tree trunks, but still got lost. Better to wait until all the snow melts and if you do succeed, please mark the trail.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

beautiful summer wildflowers

Monday, September 26, 2016

great hike!!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Very nice little hike to Emigrant. I did it in the middle of summer and there was a spot of snow I went through but the back of the lake and the mountains behind were covered and beautiful. In high water years there is a creek or 2 to ford.

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